Planning for Burial – “Dull Knife, Pt. I” (Song Premiere + Interview)
Isolation and ennui are the great self-dividers, slowly, surely, cutting its way into what defines your individuality and sets you on a course away from yourself. Upon moving from New Jersey to wooded, Appalachian Pennsylvania (not too far from a mountaintop where I, too, called home long ago), Planning for Burial mastermind Thom Wasluck found himself deep in the grip of it.
Routine, distance, silence.
Separation is difficult, and, though the comfort and predictability of a schedule may be a source of solace, the emptiness of depression and boredom smolder like an ancient coal fire beneath, which leads us, the listeners, to this point. Depression and depersonalization have historically set the stage for Planning for Burial’s idiosyncratic fusion of metal, slowcore, shoegaze, post-rock, and drone, something Wasluck calls “Gloom,” but the project’s third album, Below the House, offers a more vulnerable demonstration of its creator’s psyche. Through uncomfortable, sparse tension and the indulgence of explosive release, Below the House‘s portrayal of ennui’s two extremes provide the type of catharsis you would normally find in a Red House Painters or Low album. One such moment of mammoth tension release is the emotive first half of the “Dull Knife” diptych – an ethereal, harrowing duality of howling despondency and the floating detachment which follows. Being remote is draining, but Wasluck beautifully transforms his pain into art.
Below the House will see an LP and CD release on March 10th through The Flenser. Head below for a first listen to “Dull Knife, Pt. I” and an interview with creator Thom Wasluck.
Below The House, as many have pointed out, shows a distinct return to the more “metal” sound which you mostly subdued following the Untitled CDr. What spurred this sudden stylistic return?
I’m not sure I really thought consciously about bringing it back, it just kinda accrued naturally while trying to write some new stuff that I would enjoy playing live more after getting really tired of my old set.
I imagine the majority of this new material involves a more complicated approach when compared to the more minimal, strictly-loop-based songs from Desideratum. How do you compensate since you perform by yourself?
Moreover, is there any desire to “hire” a backing band to more “accurately” perform what was recorded?
[I’ve] been really working with having different things triggered from different locations, either saved in loopers and samplers, while still doing some other live looping. Compared to building songs from the ground up live like the past, they are still not 100% the same as the recorded version, but very close, and I think it works better to see a live artist not play the album exactly the way the record sounds. I think about it sometimes with the idea of having friends help forge out a full band version but I think at that point the appeal of Planning for Burial will be lost for me.
The appeal as far as it’s something you strictly do by yourself?
It’s an issue of control and flexibility, while also not wanting to be the person that has to say to someone, “Fuck off, this is my song. This is the way you have to play it.” That doesn’t sound like the kind of “band” I would ever want to be in or part of; bands should work organically with each other. No “visionary” status, here. [laughs]
I distinctly remember you sort of building up to, or at least hinting at what would eventually become the “Dull Knife” diptych over the past couple years, starting with a simple, stark naming of the song on social media. And at somewhere around sixteen minutes in length, at least when you include part II, it certainly takes up a large chunk of the album, to boot. I’m guessing it means something pretty significant – unless I’m completely off base. Could you go into detail about the song itself?
I was originally going to call the album “Dull Knife”, but slowly that just didn’t feel like the right name. I guess the idea around the name of came from just saying the two words at work to myself all the time while sharpening my work knife and using it as metaphor for feeling like I was worn down at the time. On the record they flow into each other, and for a long time I was playing them back to back live, but I now like to open shows with Part I and end sets with Part II.
It’s certainly a vivid title, and I can definitely feel the “wearing away” aspect with the repeating piano and percussion pulse toward the end. Closing your set with it must be cathartic, which is par for the course in the times I’ve seen you perform.
I try to extend the ending longer live too. The idea with having the big part not go on for 10 more minutes on the record was kind of a whole “you can’t always get what you want in life” thing.
The struggle faced by all droning slowcore artists – lest we forget Low’s near-30 minute rendition of “Do You Know How To Waltz?“
[That performance was a] perfect version, and I loved that when they did that it was totally for themselves. As a fan, if I saw them do it, I would’ve been so happy I got to experience something super special. I never understood why it pissed so many people off.
I guess it’s what sets the kind of music artists like you and Alan Sparhawk try to create against the kind of music casual fans want to hear. It’s also easy to get lost in the oblivion of performing something so sumptuous and droning.
It gets to be almost meditative, but I do understand it’s not for everyone.
I suppose most music isn’t, but the idea of making cathartic, introspective music like “Dull Knife” for other people sort of defeats the purpose.
Well, I think people who are fans of this type of stuff can find a way to feel catharsis while listening to it, as I have many times seeing a band play something live, but I’m not sure it’s the same feelings that I feel, myself, while playing something or another band playing their own music.
It’s all relative, right?
Yeah, I would say so.
So, now that you have three LPs under your belt, along with what most would consider a library of other releases, where does Planning for Burial go next? That is to say, do you have a plan, or is it more fluid and flexible?
There has never really been a long term goal besides longevity, being able to create whatever I want and be able to release it under the name, and hopefully have some people still care about what I’m doing. Right now I think I’m very happy with my current live set, and even with some slight re-workings of older songs that I bring in here and there when I play live, that I’m having a hard time writing right now besides the occasional riff I strum while walking around the house.
So we can hope for an LP4, at least further down the line? Funny thing to ask when LP3 isn’t even out yet.
I’m sure it will happen eventually, some things take (last) a long time.
Thom releases limited cassettes as Glowing Window Recordings.